How glycerin moved from INCI list wallflower to centre stage

By Julia Wray | Published: 4-Mar-2024

With formulators and end users declaring their love for glycerin, Cosmetics Business explores why this versatile hydrating ingredient is suddenly everywhere

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Glycerin has been a staple cosmetic ingredient for many years and is beloved by formulators for its moisturising and hydrating properties.

“Glycerin, or glycerol, is actually a naturally occurring substance and plays a key role in skin barrier function and skin hydration with multiple effects on the stratum corneum,” explains Dr Emma Wedgeworth of the British Cosmetic Dermatology Group.

Meanwhile, Dr Aiza Jamil, Consultant Dermatologist at sk:n Clinics, adds that the ingredient “is a humectant, which means it attracts water from the environment and helps retain moisture in the skin”.

When it comes to the skin’s barrier function, Jamil observes that glycerin “forms a protective layer on the surface of the skin, preventing water loss and helping to shield the skin from environmental irritants”.

This improvement in hydration means glycerin can contribute to smoother and softer skin texture, says Jamil, potentially reducing the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles. While Wedgeworth notes that the ingredient has been shown to soothe and reduce irritation.

Who’s using glycerin?

Unsurprisingly, glycerin is a common ingredient in skin care products, as well as body butters, hand creams, shaving gels and shampoos designed for intensive hydration of the hands and body.

And the industry is seeing an uptick in new launches whose marketing material capitalises on the use of glycerin.

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